Charleton tribunal: Nóirín O’Sullivan accused of ‘dark lie’

Former Garda commissioner quizzed about impact of Maurice McCabe’s allegations

Michael McDowell SC, who is representing Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe,  is questioning former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Collins.

Michael McDowell SC, who is representing Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, is questioning former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Collins.


Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has been accused of telling “a dark lie” to the Charleton tribunal over the impact of a whistleblower’s allegations of corruption.

Ms O’Sullivan is giving evidence for a second day in Dublin Castle at the Charleton tribunal, also known as the Disclosures tribunal, which is investigating if she tried to use “unjustified grounds” to try to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission hearings.

The commission sat in private to investigate allegations made by Sgt McCabe of Garda corruption and malpractice .

Counsel for Sgt McCabe, Michael McDowell SC, asked Ms O’Sullivan who she was referring to when she said some of his client’s unsupported allegations had caused gardaí to leave the force.

She said she was referring to her predecessor in the role, former comissioner Martin Callinan, who stepped down in March 2014.

Counsel responded that this was a “dark lie,” adding that “he did not retire because of allegations made against him by Sgt McCabe”.

Mr McDowell said the only allegation Sgt McCabe made against Mr Callinan was that he had improperly advanced the career of another garda in the Cavan-Monaghan Division, an allegation which was found by Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins to be unsupported by evidence.

Ms O’Sullivan said Sgt McCabe had made allegations of corruption against Mr Callinan, which was the most serious thing a garda can be accused of. She said whether these allegations contributed to his decision to step down or not “is a matter for him.”

The final report of the O’Higgins commission said the allegations against Mr Callinan were unsupported, but that Sgt McCabe believed them to be based in truth. The report said the allegations had been hurtful to Mr Callinan and that he had lived under the strain of them for a long time.


Earlier, Mr McDowell put it to the former Garda commissioner that her lawyers appeared to have gone against her instructions during the O’Higgins Commission.

Mr McDowell said commission transcripts from May 15th, 2014 show Ms O’Sullivan’s barrister explicitly telling Mr Justice O’Higgins that Sgt McCabe’s “integrity” was being challenged and that he acted with “improper motives” when making allegations of Garda corruption.

Ms O’Sullivan replied that this is not what she instructed. She said she only instructed that his motivations be “tested”.

Mr McDowell put it to her that her barrister made the statements about integrity immediately after receiving instructions from the then commissioner.

“All I can say is I didn’t instruct that his integrity be challenged,” Ms O’Sullivan replied.

Mr McDowell asked her if her liaison at the commission, Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, had “failed utterly” to pass on an urgent request from Garda lawyers for a consultation with her about her instructions.

She said she could not accept this and that Chief Supt Healy was an experienced garda who was dealing with many issues at the commission at the time. She said she and Chief Supt Healy may have had “different impressions” of what was needed.

Sexual assault

Earlier, Ms O’Sullivan said she has no memory of seeing false accusations that Sgt McCabe had committed a serious sexual assault.

The tribunal has previously heard evidence that an account of allegations relating to “Ms Y” were brought to the attention of the commissioner in 2014.

Mr McDowell asked the former commissioner if she read a referral from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which falsely stated he was accused of digitally raping a child.

Ms O’Sullivan said she does not dispute that she had sight of the referral in 2014, but said she does not recall reading it.

She agreed with counsel she never received any documents to correct the false allegation.

Counsel asked her if Sgt McCabe was due an apology for this failure. Ms O’Sullivan replied that she would not want to pre-empt a decision by the tribunal’s chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

Mr Justice Charleton has yet to rule on Module D of the tribunal which dealt with the “Ms Y” accusations.

The tribunal has now risen for the day. Mr McDowell will continue questioning Ms O’Sullivan on Wednesday morning.